Numbers and words


Up there is a hellebore. Isn’t it beautiful? I stopped off at the nursery last week, intending to check out vegetables and herbs for the spring planting…and ended up buying a cartful of “Ivory Prince” hellebores, along with my vegetable seeds and various herbs. Deer-resistant, beautiful, and they can thrive in the shade–perfect for our north-facing front garden! They’re now nestled under the abutilons (which are strangely thriving in the shade next to the now very dead looking hydrangea).

It’s hard to figure out what will live in that patch of shady land. We ripped out all the horrific English ivy a little over a year ago, wanting something more welcoming and attractive. That patch of garden is the first thing people see as they come up to our threshold. It’s important to me that our guests be greeted by some piece of cheerful landscape. English ivy didn’t fit that idea.

Oh–what was I intending to post about until I went off on hellebores?

Yes, my memory.

I’d like to say I’m all better to date, and I think I am. My mind, in retrospect, really sharpened up sometime in October, halfway through my last MFA semester, right before the holidays. Until then, I was in a sort of fog, I was consistently forgetting things, and I was relying heavily on my moleskine notebook to remember things, to record things. Crowds overwhelmed me, and I exhausted easily from any social outing.

I went back to work fulltime in January.

And it’s only now that I realize there are things I still have a hard time with–surprise!

So vigorous was my effort to make a Lance Armstrong-esque recovery, to mold my brain into the shape of a writer, that I now have a hard time with numbers. Adding numbers in my head? I start doing so, thinking it will be as easy as ever..and then the numbers are a jumble in my head, and I get stuck carrying the numbers and then I forget what numbers I was even trying to add (or subtract or multiply). And if you tell me someone’s salary or an invoice amount, that’s great. But in half an hour, I won’t remember those numbers anymore.

I remember words. Not so much, numbers. Odd. And not that I was a mathematician before my stroke, but I used to be pretty competent and at ease with numbers.

And I still forget, it seems, things that actually happened. I was at afternoon tea with a buddy of mine and she remarked, “Hey, isn’t this better than the other place we had tea?”


“The other place! The R—!”

“We WENT there?!” I asked.


“No way.”

“Yes, we did.”

“Are you sure? I don’t remember it at all. Are you sure you went with ME?”

“Yes,” she said, “It was you.” Man, she was so patient with me.

Huh. I eventually remembered, after I asked her a ton more details. When was this? Who went? I finally started to remember once she detailed the entire afternoon of activities surrounding the tea. “Oh!” I felt a shady part of my brain finally illuminated. “I remember THAT!” But I didn’t remember the tea.

But with more prodding, I finally remembered. A dim memory of that tea. A picture of the room. But if you asked me what exactly we talked about, I wouldn’t remember. These days, it seems, I can really keep a secret!

Whether this is permanent will remain to be seen. It’s like a lingering limp, only not visual. It’s not awful–I’m totally functional and work around most of these gaps, but my memory used to be super-keen, and it’s going to take some adjustment for me to accept that my greatest strength might now be my biggest cognitive weakness.

Still, I’m happy to remember my hellebores. I’d take that over numbers anyday.


1 Comment

Filed under Life, The Stroke, Writing

One response to “Numbers and words

  1. I don’t remember things these days, either, and I didn’t have a stroke! They call it baby brain. Good to know about the hellebores because our entire backyard is shady and full of deer.

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